Record Attendance for Fifth Annual Health Justice and Belonging Conference

Health Justice and Belonging 2024 Conference Team

Once a year the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine invites people across the state of Washington and beyond to strategize, collaborate, and identify the ways we can achieve optimal health care for all. The Health Justice and Belonging Conference is not only for health care professionals, educators, and students. It is intentionally designed to encourage people from all professions and backgrounds to join and share their experiences and ideas.

In its fifth year, the Health Justice and Belonging Conference is gaining more attention and attendance is growing. Nearly 400 people attended the 2024 conference from Spokane to Seattle and from the West Coast to the East Coast. The two-day conference is free and virtual, to make it easier to more people to attend.

The theme for the 2024 conference was Our New Normal. Organizers framed the sessions to explore the modern realities people are facing and the role health justice and belonging has in ensuring high-quality and affordable health care for all.

This year’s conference began on February 7 with a welcome and opening remarks from College of Medicine Dean James Record, MD, and David Garcia, MEd, associate dean for community, health equity, and belonging. David Browneagle, a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, followed with a prayer and song which generated a positive reactions and praise from attendees.

Conference organizers welcomed speakers from the WSU College of Medicine and across the nation to share their research and perspectives on health justice and belonging. Each day started and ended with a plenary presentation. In between, attendees could choose between different thread presentations on the topics of community, pedagogy and praxis, and research.

John Vassall, MD, senior director of leadership faculty at the WSU College of Medicine, and Edwin Lindo, JD, professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, kicked off the first plenary session with a frank discussion on the history and medicalization of race. They explored the social, political, and economic history of the construction of race and the racial inequities present today. It was especially emotional as they shared personal stories and accounts highlighting the mistreatment of Black people in health care settings.

Wednesday afternoon, Curtis Byrd, EdD, CEO and co-founder of the Academic Pipeline Project, spoke about the use and best practices of academic pipeline programs to support the steady increase of diverse students in academic programs. The session focused on ways to empower individuals from diverse ethnic, gender, and economic backgrounds to strive for brighter futures.

Thursday’s plenary sessions featured panel discussions and more time for questions from those attending the conference. In the morning, a group of Washington state and community leaders gathered to discuss the current state of health justice and belonging. The afternoon panel tackled the shared responsibility of community to engage and promote health justice and belonging.

The organizers hope that people left the conference with the tools they need to shift the way each of us provide and receive care.

The theme and dates are already set for next year. Mark your calendar for February 5-6, 2025 to explore the theme: The Path Forward.